If this game was to be used as a yardstick, then Salford City's season is well and truly over, as they failed to beat a spirited but limited Goole side who themselves will be fortunate to be playing at this level next season.
Goole had the best chances in a dull game and they were thwarted by the ever impressive Ritchie Branagan, who saved a first half penalty and then made an excellent stop in the last minute to ensure the Ammies left the misnamed Victoria Pleasure Ground with a point.
To be fair, although Goole had the game's best chance it was the Ammies who had the better of the play, creating a number of half chances of which the best saw Goole keeper Lee Appleby save a Nathan Taylor effort. A draw was the fairest result, in a match that was as dismal and drab as the weather it was played in.
Salford manager Darren Sheridan made three changes from the team which drew with Radcliffe Borough, with Rees Welsh and Jameel Ible returning in defence for Danny White and Andy Heald, and Osebi Abadaki starting in place of Jamie Rother.
The Ammies began by trying to play football on a heavy rutted pitch (as on a number of occasions this season they were guilty of overplaying), but switched to almost aimlessly bypassing the midfield with long balls from back to front - a surprising ploy, as striker and main target man Rob Kinsella was not selected, being deemed to not be fit after missing training during his suspension.
The first half quickly settled into a routine of Salford trying to find a way through the Goole defence with the home team always being dangerous on the counter attack. After only four minutes Nathan Taylor's right foot shot was saved by Lee Appleby. Goole swiftly responded and on ten minutes Ritchie Brannagan was called into action for the first time with a double save from Goole's impressive top scorer Bill Law.
In the 23rd minute a Jimmy Holden free kick caused chaos in the Goole box, with the partially cleared ball falling to Adrian Bellamy who calmly chipped it over the keeper into the net. Salford celebrations were short lived as the linesman's flag ruled the goal out for offside. Later in the first half, Ammies fans will claim that Salford were again denied a goal as Jameel Ible's header was also ruled out for off side, however the referees' whistle had gone a long time before Ible had made contact with the ball.
Sandwiched in between the two Salford offside goals was the moment of the match. A Goole through ball got behind the Salford defence; Richie Branagan charged to the edge of his box and was involved in a collision with the Goole player. Mr Swift the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty to the home side. There was very little in the way of protests from the City players but Branagan, having given the penalty away, showed a maturity which belies his years as he calmly picked himself up and dived to his right making an excellent stop to keep the penalty out and the score goalless.
Salford's best chance of the game came in the 39th minute when, after neat work on the right, Osebi Abadaki's cross field ball was sublimely played into the path of Nathan Taylor by Jimmy Holden. Taylor's shot from the angle was saved by the keeper, although Taylor's reaction showed he thought he could have done much better.
Despite plenty of huffing and puffing by both teams there were no more clear cut chances in the first half, which on the whole was high in effort on both teams part but low on skill and guile. Salford's best chance of a goal seemed to be from a set piece, as when the delivery in the first had been good the Ammies had caused problems. In midfield Aaron Walters had his best half whilst in a Salford shirt, breaking up Goole play.
The second half began with the introduction of Ammies top scorer Nathan McDonald whose game time has been restricted in recent weeks by injury. With both sides cancelling each other out the arrival on 70 minutes of Jamie Rother helped the Ammies to go forward and in the 75th minute Nathan McDonald's corner was met by Adrian Bellamy, whose header went over. As in the first half Salford pressed without creating any clear cut opportunities and Goole countered.
As the game entered the 90th minute Goole's Bill Law beat Jack Lane and his shot seemed destined for the back of the net only for Ritchie Branagan to dive full length to his right to keep the ball out, and for the fifth time in the game deny the Goole front man in their personal dual.
A minute later Theo Kidd making his Salford debut flicked the ball on for Nathan McDonald who outpaced the defence but was unable to get to the ball first as Lee Appleby bravely came out at his feet to smoother. Abadaki then received the ball out on the right wing and using a combination of skill and pace beat his marker to the bye line and his measured pass found Jamie Rother whose shot was blocked. This was the last meaningful opportunity and the game finished all square which on balance was the result deserved by both sides.
With the upcoming visit on New Year's Day of high flying and free scoring Trafford, Ammies fans will perhaps be gladdened by the 45 minutes played by top scorer Nathan McDonald and the form of Osebi Abadaki who was a menace down the flank taking Goole defenders on.
However, the figures don't lie, and a return of 2 points and 1 goal from the 2 games over Christmas against teams struggling in relegation battles is not a good enough return. If Salford are to challenge for the playoffs nothing less than a victory against Trafford will do!
Salford City v Trafford New Year's Day 3pm kick off Moor Lane £7/£3
Further details at www.salfordcityfc.co.uk
Match report and photos by Gareth Lyons